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Lack of mental health beds causing 'intolerable strain'

Lack of beds in mental health services means that patients are being either sent home or sectioned. 

A survey from the Royal College of Psychiatrists trainee committee (PCT) revealed that 70% had difficulty finding a bed for a patient at least once. 

In child and adolescent services (CAMHS) the figure was over 80%. More than a third (37%) said  a colleague's decision to detain a patient under the Mental Health Act had been influenced by the fact that doing so might make the provision of a bed more likely, and 18% said their own decisions had been influenced in such a way.

A quarter of the 576 junior doctors working in psychiatry said that a bed manager had told them that unless their patient had been sectioned they would not get a bed.

And 28% have sent a critically unwell patient home because no bed could be found.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said there is an "intolerable strain" on mental health services at the moment, which "must change".

“Nursing staff are struggling to care for mental health patients because of the pressure that services are under. It is undeniable that we are a long way off the equal treatment of mental and physical health which the government has promised," Dr Carter said. 

“The health service must end the current bias against mental health services and must invest in early intervention services so that staff can help people before it is too late. Until the pressure on mental health services is alleviated, some of society's most vulnerable members are being failed with often tragic results.”

Professor Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “This survey provides further evidence that mental health services are approaching a tipping point. Continued cuts to services can only result in further distress and discomfort for patients, many of whom are young, vulnerable, some of whom are forced to receive care far from home. 

"This situation is simply not acceptable.”